An introduction to biological systematics
An introduction to biological systematics

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An introduction to biological systematics

2.13 Systematics and biogeography

Activity 12

0 hours 10 minutes

In this clip, Dr. Patterson introduces the concept of systematics and biogeography. He uses a diagram showing two cladograms (Figure 13) – one representing the higher primates that have been discussed in the course, and the other showing where they are found. Area cladograms can be used to answer questions like ‘Where did man originate?’

Figure 13 (a) Cladogram of the higher primates. (b) Area cladogram, with the names of the groups in (a) replaced by the names of the areas where they are found
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Transcript: Audio clip 13

Dr. Colin Patterson
Finally, a few words on systematics and biogeography - or how one can use cladograms in biogeography. The next diagram is the cladogram of higher primates that we've been working through, from New World monkeys, the Cebidae, through to ourselves. Next to it, (b) is the same diagram with the names of the groups replaced by the names of the areas where they’re found. This is an area cladogram, based on higher primates. And the idea behind it is that we can use the relationships between organisms to investigate earth history, or the relationships between geographic areas.
This area cladogram suggests various things about geography. For example, that Africa is more closely related to India and Southeast Asia, than to South America.
How might we check or test that idea? The best way would be by using the relationships of other groups - animals or plants, that live in South America, Africa, and the other areas - to see if they give the same area cladogram, or a different one. If all or most of them give the same area cladogram, then we'd have strong evidence for a common history of those groups, and of the areas they inhabit.
One can also use an area cladogram to answer questions like, “Where did man originate?” If you apply outgroup comparison to diagram (b), our two nearest relatives are both African. So the inference would be that we too originated in Africa, and spread from there to the rest of the world.
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